man handcuffs
A 28-year-old man was jailed after he masturbated in front of a 12-year-old girl he met on a dating site. This is a representational image of a man wearing handcuffs in Lille, France, Nov. 29, 2018. PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

A man in England was jailed for two-and-a-half years Thursday for masturbating in front of a 12-year-old girl and filming her. He was also instructed to sign the sex offender register for the rest of his life.

Carl Hodgson, a 28-year-old, first met the girl, who pretended to be 19, on a dating app in February 2018. After a few days of conversation, Hodgson invited the girl over to his flat in Manchester City, England. He filmed the girl and also sent it to a friend boasting about the encounter. As the girl looked on, he also performed some sexual acts. Hodgson also called the girl “filthy” in one of his texts to his friends.

Calling it “male bravado and bragging”, his lawyer, Alexander Leach, told the Manchester Crown Court that the girl and Hodgson had not had sexual intercourse. Earlier he pleaded guilty to causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity. He also confessed to engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, distributing an indecent photograph of a child and making indecent photographs of a child.

The girl, whose name was not revealed due to her age, made a profile on a popular adult dating app where she used a fake name and claimed she was 19. The girl went missing from her home in February 2018 and when her family found Instagram messages from Hodgson on her phone, they alerted the police. Police later found the girl and returned her safely to her parents. Following an investigation, police arrested Hodgson in March. The girl

During the course of the trial, the girl was in a “withdrawn state” and unable or unwilling to communicate with anyone. The girl’s mother, however, said she has been known to go missing from home on a regular basis and the girl admitted to having posed as a 19-year-old in front of Hodgson.

The court found no evidence of rape, any count of grooming and child abduction.

During sentencing, Hodgson was told by Judge David Stockdale, “The victim was by reason of her age, highly vulnerable to exploitation and she was no doubt impressed by you. This is most serious offending as you now fully appreciate. The effects on a child of such a young age of offending o this sort are really well too known and well too documented.”

He further said that while the court took into account the victim was 12 years of age when the incident happened, Hodgson was not aware of it and the fact that he thought she was over 16 years of age was reasonable.

His lawyer said while Hodgson was not aware he was engaging in any sexual activity with a child, he did know she was significantly younger than him but he believed her to be older than 16 years. “He did not intend to engage in sexual activity with a child and could not have appreciated the particular vulnerability of the child, nor the disparity in age to its criminal extend,” Leach said.

The proceedings of the case did have a profound effect on Hodgson who lost his job, home and suffered stigma brought with the nature of the case. The judge said he was satisfied with Hodgson’s remorse and the regret he felt, which he believes were testimonials of a good character.